Nothing Sugar-Coated Here: Type 2 Diabetes

Learn how to navigate lifestyle changes after diagnosis

A Veteran reading over his prescriptionYour doctor just told you that you have type 2 diabetes. What happens now? Your VA health care team can help. Diabetes doesn't go away. Left alone or not managed well, it can cause heart disease, kidney problems, blindness, and nerve damage leading to amputation. Changes like medication, better food choices, and exercise can help you manage type 2 diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. The pancreas makes insulin and supports your blood sugar by helping the cells absorb sugar from your blood. If you have type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin, or your body doesn't use the insulin it does make. Either way, glucose builds up in your blood, which is how you can get high blood sugar.

Managing your medication

Take any prescription medication or give yourself insulin at the right times to help you control your blood sugar. Think about ways that will help you remember to take your medicines the right way every day. Ask your healthcare provider or team for ideas. You may only take pills for your diabetes. But this may change. Over time, most people with type 2 diabetes also need insulin.

Learn what to eat

With diabetes, you'll need to pay closer attention to the carbohydrates in your meals. Take some time to learn which foods will help manage blood sugar and which to avoid. Try recipes that are low in saturated fats, salt, and added sugars like this Mediterranean Chickpea Salad. There’s even a cookbook online at to help.

Get regular exercise

Becoming more active is your first goal. Before you start an exercise plan, have a checkup with your doctor. They may mention an A1C test or a resting electrocardiogram. Aerobic exercise and strength training can help your body use insulin better.

With support from your friends and family, these changes can help you better navigate type 2 diabetes. Track these changes on My HealtheVet to manage it better. You might have questions as you start. Use Secure Messaging (sign in required) if you have any non-urgent questions for your doctor.

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Read More

Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Veterans Health Library)

Diabetes Information (Nutrition and Food Services)

Recipes for a Diabetic-Friendly Meal

Diabetes Over 50

Updated December 10, 2021